Shaper: Richard Cohen


Transcript of the show
Elliot MossThat was I Stand Alone from Robert Glasper, a great way to start the programme this morning.  Good morning this is me, Elliott Moss on Jazz FM with Jazz Shapers; the place where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, soul and blues alongside their equivalents in the world of business.  My business shaper today is Richard Cohen.  He is the founder and CEO of LoveLive which is a music media and digital rights company so he tells me.  You will be hearing lots from him very shortly.  In addition to hearing from Richard, you will also be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business and on top of all of that of course and quite aptly in terms of my guest, some great music from the shapers of jazz, soul and blues, including Madeleine Peyroux, Donald Byrd and this from John Lee Hooker.That was Boogie Chillen’ from John Lee Hooker. Richard Cohen is my business shaper today and as I said, he is the founder and CEO of LoveLive.  I am going to let him actually tell us what LoveLive really does because I have said it is about music, media and digital rights but what is LoveLive Richard? And thank you for joining me.

 

Richard CohenWell thanks for having me, great to be here.  LoveLive is as you have described aptly, it is a music media and a digital rights business and principally it is about creating the highest quality live music video content and making that available to underserved audiences really.

Elliot Moss

And who are underserved audiences, just give me a flavour?

 

Richard CohenWell I think anybody who can’t make it to the live gigs themselves.  I think live music is so emotive and it is such a strong passion point that some of the best gigs you will never see you are not seeing because they have not been filmed and so the ability to access something and to experience that often socially even when on-line and along with your friends is compelling to people who are passionate about music and wouldn’t otherwise have access to the live performances.

Elliot Moss

I am just thinking back to a very personal thing which is I have never been to Glastonbury but I watch Glastonbury on television and I get really excited.  Is it simply capturing that basic visceral feeling that someone has for live music but when you can’t actually see it.  Is it nothing more than that but then you have got to do a whole bunch of clever stuff to make sure it is easy for those people to get hold of that experience?

Richard Cohen

I think that is incredibly well put and I think that is a large part of it but I think it does go beyond because there are a variety of experiences.  One of them is the visceral experience as you have suggested and that is sort of the live event itself but in our experience often the content which is the most cost effective to capture is actually seen as having the highest perceived value in the eyes of the fans and that is about insight and access and ensuring that they can get really to sort of have a glimpse if you will in to the world of the artist they love and are following.  So if it is being in the green room or if it is a format we created with just three minutes before the artist goes on stage, if it is an acoustic track or it is watching them prepare, if it is the rituals that surround the performance I think there is a great deal to be enjoyed from the performance and equally from everything that goes in to making the performance.

Elliot Moss

Now what you have just described is kind of the, as you said, the insight into the world and the access all areas card that you’ve got from a filmic point and then how you share that with different audiences.  That is pretty complex stuff I imagine to actually deliver and I just want to talk for a moment about and we’ll come to your past and how you arrived to be the guy who happens to be putting all these things together but there is a world of broadcasters in there, there is a world of music in there, there is a world of rights in there, there is some brands thrown in, there’s a label thing, there’s high quality programming.  That is a super smorgesburg of stuff; tell me about how you’ve come to be able to be the guy who is a bit of a ring master in pulling together and making look simple, pulling together all those different strands.

Richard Cohen

It is very gracious of you to say and I would agree and frankly if I had known quite how complex it was to begin with.

Elliot Moss

You wouldn’t have done it would you?

Richard Cohen

I am not sure that I would have started in the first place.  We actually talk about that quite a lot that it is really LoveLive’s position to simplify for all of the constituents in the value chain what is effectively an incredibly complex process and there are constituents from the brands who have got the money to spend, to the artists who are creating the music and then the rights holders in their various forms, the label and so on and the master recording, the repertoire, the publishers who ultimately hold rights as well and bringing all of these people often with divergent agendas together in a fashion which is helpful for everybody and creates value.  It has been a challenge.  One that I have thoroughly enjoyed and one where I believe we have been incredibly successful and had good fortune.  I think it starts from a position of integrity whereas LoveLive we like to sort of see ourselves as fair trade music and our starting point was to ensure that all of those constituents see value and get paid and so I think that has been critical to our success and the support we have had from the same constituents where ultimately it would have been very easy as a very small business for anyone or all of them to have just killed it dead because we don’t get everything right all the time and when you are innovating you are ultimately going to have to be doing things which are new and therefore less well polished and so it really was getting everybody on side and having them understand that we were here to serve, that we were truly passionate about what we were doing, that we were going to do it to the highest standards possible and that we were going to get it wrong some of the time along the way but always it was operated under the banner of fair, honourable and equitable and I think that has really seen us through some challenging times and over the term with the quality work we have done and the value we can deliver I feel that it has brought everybody on side.

Elliot Moss

Find out much more from my business shaper Richard Cohen as we explore the intricate world that he seems to have adapted and adopted.  Time for some music though, this is Etta James and I Would Rather Go Blind.

That was the seminal Etta James with I Would Rather Go Blind.  Makes the point about music that really touches you.  Richard Cohen is my business shaper, he has been talking about what LoveLive is and how as you said Richard, you take a very complex eco system around the world of music and around the world of film and rights, owners and so on and you serve it up in a simple way which just says me, listening and watching is gonna love it and as you talked about equitability and all sorts of interesting things were occurring to me.  You’ve done all sorts of stuff and I think that is what I alluded to you very briefly to get to the point where you can bring together all those different people is not just, you know, it’s not one craft skill it is many.  What do you think over the course of your career and you’ve been involved in film businesses and you’ve been involved in music business and so on.  What do you think have been the most influential moments, the inflection points where you have gone ‘okay I’ve just learnt something which is going to affect now the way I am going forward and what I really want out of my working life’.

Richard Cohen

Well that is a really big question, there has been so many people, so many influences and so many points.  I have to say that adversity challenge.  Somebody said to me once that anxiety is nothing but the fear and trepidation of events never likely to occur and that really appealed to me because you know, as an entrepreneur starting new businesses I could think of ten good reasons as to why not to set up a new business for every one reason why you should and I guess this is why people suggest that they talk about civilians and entrepreneurs that when civilians are effectively asking why, entrepreneurs are asking why not.

Elliot Moss

Tell me a little bit about the few businesses, because you have bought and sold companies, you’ve set them up, you oversee.

Richard Cohen

Yes.

Elliot Moss

Tell me about just a few of those highlights across the years before LoveLive was born.

Richard Cohen

So for me it has always been, I am a sales guy through and through.  You know the one thing that I have always done better than anything else is consulted to B to B sales, it is not terribly sexy.

Elliot Moss

Business to business.

Richard Cohen

Very much so and it has always been the convergence between media content which I love and am passionate about and enabling technology and so in bringing these together one of the first businesses that really excited me and really did highlight that conversion, or what really I guess kicked me off on this path was a company called Image.Net which we subsequently sold to Getty Images and that was a great business.  It was such an obvious thing to do when people in film studios and record labels were still making physical dupes of publicity and marketing images, putting them in FedEx boxes and envelopes and shipping them all over the world, this was a central digital hub where all of these assets were made available in a central source where people would log in and download and it just made so much sense on so many levels and I became hooked and from that point it was really about enabling technology and media content.  How to do things better, how to optimise and it went from there to Framestore CFC which was and is a fascinating company.

Elliot Moss

Now world famous of course for being the people behind Gravity.  Not so famous back then unless you worked in advertising obviously.

Richard Cohen

You know Walking with Dinosaurs saw them them you know, with some, some degree of renown.

Elliot Moss

Well that is true.

Richard Cohen

And you know, they were a fantastic company and are and they had sought to develop a digital platform which also was distributing high quality video digitally for review and approval processes in between the producers, the brands, the directors, the broadcasters and it was very similar to the efficiencies that we developed at Image.net and so I really did become hooked in effect about this process of optimisation and using technology not for its own sake but for the betterment of, well media and media content generally and from there the real kind of big leap for me was having the good fortune to join Perform Group. I was a shareholder and on their Board of Directors and obviously the success there was meteoric.  The company went from being incredibly small to now being a billion dollar listed entity on the London Stock Exchange.  And really all I have done since leaving Perform Group is seek to shamelessly replicate the best practices that we established there for sport and apply them where relevant and where possible to music.

Elliot Moss

Very good stuff.  Much more coming up from Richard Cohen my business shaper.  Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that, some words of wisdom for your business from our programme partners at Mishcon De Reya.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss every Saturday morning you can catch me talking to a brilliant business shaper and my business shaper this morning is also brilliant.  He is called Richard Cohen and he is the CEO and founder of LoveLive which is a music media and digital rights company.  That’s a mouthful isn’t it but you know what I mean if you have been listening so far.  Richard beyond the amazing things that you have been involved with, you’ve done and I suppose part of those things is that you’ve done deals, you’ve raised money, things that people listening will go ‘how did that happen?’.  Give me Richard Cohen’s number one tip when it comes to negotiating a price for a business?

Richard Cohen

Well that’s another big question.  I think it’s really about searching for value on both sides. I really do govern all of my business principals on the basis of what is fair, honourable and equitable and I think that if you keep your eye on the prize which for me is long-term and sustainable value, then there is really only one way to negotiate.  There is tonnes of tactical approaches that one might take but ultimately if you’ve got a principal that governs your approach and that underpins everything.  I think it keeps it simple, I think people learn to respect and appreciate that and I think you know, leaving goodwill on the table is very important.  You can’t expect to win everything all the time and you have to ensure that the other side is seeing value otherwise you simply need to go back to the beginning and try again.

Elliot Moss

And I imagine the same is true of people investing in you.  How to attract an investor is all about ensuring that what they are getting is fair, equitable and I think you used…

Richard Cohen

Honourable.

Elliot Moss

…And honourable as well.  Is that probably true?

Richard Cohen

I think that is exactly right.  It really is in all dealings frankly whether its people you are taking investment from, people you are recruiting, people you want to be in partnership with. I think it really does have to be a guiding principal across all of it.

Elliot Moss

Now your business has grown and you have offices here, you have offices the other side of the Atlantic.  What’s it like as you start up another business and you grow and you hire people over across the other side of the pond.  Do you still enjoy the fundamentals of what you are doing or does it become more about managing a business?

Richard Cohen

It’s a really good question.  I was talking about that just earlier today.  From my perspective it is a privilege, a thrill and a joy, I genuinely love what it is that I do and I have many examples but the easiest way to articulate that is that I work in an environment of my choosing absolutely. I work with the people who have ultimately been handpicked and so they are people whom I love and respect and I get to surround myself with creative, talented, innovative people working with subject matter that I absolutely adore. I genuinely couldn’t imagine what else I would be doing.

Elliot Moss

Wow, well there you go.  He sounds pretty happy.  Richard stay with me, you’re going to hear lots more hopefully uplifting stuff just like that.  Time for some brilliant music along with my brilliant shaper today, this is Donald Byrd, one of my personal favourites and it is (Falling Like) Dominoes.

 

That was Donald Byrd and (Falling Like) Dominoes.  Richard Cohen is my business shaper today.  The CEO and founder of LoveLive.  Richard when you talk you talk a lot about the values and the principals that you uphold as personally important and professionally important.  My sense is that those are what govern you and that money is secondary and that money is a bi-product.  Is that a fair thing to say?

 

Richard CohenIt’s entirely accurate and I don’t take this for granted or say it flippantly but making money has never really been my objective.  It has always been a bi-product of doing what it is that I enjoy first and foremost.  I know that it is possibly trite to say that you know, life really is short and that we get our one go but I’ve got two young children and when I had my first, my boy, Adam who is seven, it was remarkable because I recognised for the first time that I am no longer the most important person in my own life and it was just brilliant at resetting all of my priorities and my approach and especially to business because that is where I spend so much of my time.

Elliot Moss

And beyond the values that drive you and as you said, becoming not the most important person in your own life.  What else drives you?  What else is pushing you to create this company which has, you know, clients including as I understand it Ford, HP, Telefonica, Spotify, BT, you are on platforms including the Guardian, Time Out and at various other places.  What is it that you want to do next?  What is the legacy of the kind of work that you are doing now?

Richard Cohen

I mean another really interesting question and one that I challenge myself and my team with daily, literally daily.  I think it is creating value and sustainability and about being enablers so as we grow we are having the good fortunate right now to be growing incredibly rapidly and I think that that growth for its own sake has little value to me.  I think our ability to help with the discovery process, unearthing talent, providing them with a platform and promoting said talent.  I mean going back to the beginning I obviously should have been a rock star save for the fact that I can’t sing or play a lick and so for me you know, being in this environment the star dust sprinkles just far enough to give me a light dusting and I do get to be very close to the creativity and to the creation itself and I think for me to be able to sort of elevate and amplify that, that really always has been the goal and that is what we would like to continue doing.

Elliot Moss

We will have our final chat with Richard plus play a track from Shaper of Jazz, Madeleine Peyroux, that’s after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

That was Madeleine Peyroux and Dance Me To The End Of Love.  My final few minutes now with Richard Cohen are going to ensue and I hope I can extract even more from him.  You have talked about all sorts of things Richard, what strikes me is that you are passionate about music, you love technology and you have kind of found a way to follow your passion and make money in an honourable way.  I mean it is almost perfect.  Going forward it sounds like it is going to be more of the same.  How does one continue to do more of the same when everything around you is changing?

Richard Cohen

I have the good fortune again to not feel that what I am doing every day is the same. I think no two days are the same and the range and scope of my responsibilities and the breadth of what we are actually tackling is so immense that the diversity is there for me all the time and so continuing as we are I believe that the challenges that I will face moving forward are going to be, you know, sometimes similar but often very different and running a company that has you know a hundred people is different from starting up a company that has only got a handful and then when you get to the point where you’ve got many more and you are trading globally and you’ve got to address challenges and how to ensure that you maintain standards whilst at the same time wishing to scale quite dramatically, I am looking forward.  We are in the process of going out to raise our first institutional round of finance and that is always fun, it is always interesting but it does have a very different dynamic to running the business in the way that we had done organically and more in a boot strapped fashion and now all of a sudden we have got to contemplate kind of the use of proceeds and how we are going to spend a great deal of money and it is interesting I have done it a number of times before and every time you are stuck between how do I ensure that I am actually using it and deploying it because investors don’t make it available in order for it to sit in the bank.  At the same time you want to make sure that you adhere to standards and don’t rush out there and start deploying money in such a manner as to really intrude on the original vision.

Elliot Moss

The interesting thing also I think about your business is that a lot of people listening will be recipients of it without even knowing that it was you behind them or behind the output.  When you are in a business that is essentially plumbing on the one hand, is it hard to explain to your friends and family what it is that you actually do and does that matter?  Or is it more important you just go ‘this is Richard he is obviously a bright guy and he is doing some interesting things’ and you just stop there.  Because sometimes it strikes me that people define themselves whether it is their own business or not by the ability of someone else to understand what it is that they do.

Richard Cohen

It shouldn’t matter but it does.  I am quite a proud person.

Elliot Moss

In fact it would be easier if you were the rock star that you thought you’d be.

Richard Cohen

Indeed.

Elliot Moss

You just go ‘what do you do Richard?  I’m a rock star’.

Richard Cohen

You know a one word answer would be fantastic.  It shouldn’t matter but it does and to address that specifically we have started launching a variety of direct consumer products to increase my visibility.

Elliot Moss

And your ability at dinner tables to tell people what it is that you do.  Have you seen that?

Richard Cohen

Exactly.  No, no it’s fine for me to be behind the scenes.  I actually quite enjoy that and to be able to be the guy that provides the stage for those that really should be front of camera, I really am delighted with my position behind it.

Elliot Moss

And in terms of like, you know, people coming through who are digital natives and I am talking about my children and probably both Ella and Adam, your children who will be digital natives as well, who are digital natives.  You know, when kids say I love music and technology and that is what I am going to do.  That surely is the shape of the new world which is not going to be new to them, it’s just what is going to happen.  Do you envisage in fifteen, twenty years’ time that there will be many many companies trying to deliver what you deliver today versus a handful of companies?

Richard Cohen

I hope so.

Elliot Moss

That are doing it well?

Richard Cohen

I really hope so.  I mean we try to…

Elliot Moss

And have you encouraged them?  I mean how will you encourage those people to actually set up their own businesses.  What advice would you give to those people who are aren’t even yet ready to create their own businesses, what are they going to have to look out for?

Richard Cohen

I believe that we all thrive on competition.  I welcome it because ultimately the more people doing what it is that we do it educates a market and it provides validation to the market and therefore I no longer have to sell something for a hundred, I just have to be able to prove that what it is that I am proposing is worth however many pennies more than the other guys doing something similar and so digital natives it’s hysterical because you mentioned Adam and Ella, thanks.  They are seven and four and my four year old daughter when we are turning on the television to look for maybe one of the apps that we’ve created on Smart TV, she will suggest to her brother that he shouldn’t be looking on that one, Apple TV, that’s on Netflix or that’s on the other app and she is four years old.  So they really do have a completely different take on the world.

Elliot Moss

Fantastic stuff and let’s hope they go on and do amazing things too.  Just before I let you go, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Richard Cohen

Gil Scott-Heron and The Bottle.  I saw Gil Scott-Heron playing at a dive bar in New York many many years ago.  I have been a fan for an incredibly long time and for me it sums up life.  It is the most beautiful lyrical song that one will ever hear and you really have to stop and focus and pay attention to the fact that it is also one of the saddest.

Elliot Moss

Richard thank you very much for being my business shaper.  This is your choice, it is Gil Scott-Heron and the brilliant The Bottle.

 

That was The Bottle from Gil Scott-Heron, the song choice of my business shaper today, Richard Cohen.  Very intelligent, surrounding himself with smart people, totally values driven and someone who absolutely is passionate about the music business and the interface with technology.  Fantastic stuff.  Do join me again, same time, same place, for another edition of Jazz Shapers, that’s Saturday, 9.00am.  In the meantime stay with us, coming up next here on Jazz FM it’s Nigel Williams.
LoveLive is about creating the highest quality live music video content and making it available to anybody who can’t make it to the live gigs themselves.

We don’t get everything right all the time and when you are innovating you are ultimately going to have to do new things that are less polished.

We are truly passionate about what we do, we do it to the highest standard possible and we accept that we are going to get it wrong sometimes, but we always operate under the banner of fair, honourable and equitable, and that has seen us through challenging times.

Somebody said to me once that anxiety is nothing but the fear and trepidation of events never likely to occur.

The one thing that I have always done better than anything else is consulted to B to B sales. It is not terribly sexy.

It is a privilege, a thrill and a joy. I genuinely love what it is that I do.

I don’t say this flippantly, but making money has never really been my objective.  It has always been a bi-product of doing what it is that I enjoy first and foremost.

I am delighted with my position behind the scenes and to be the guy who provides the stage for those that really should be on it.

I believe that we all thrive on competition.  I welcome it.

Richard Cohen

Richard is CEO of LoveLiveLoveLive is a music media company that brings together brands, broadcasters, digital platforms and labels; combining unique access to music rights with digital and marketing capability to create original high-quality music content and campaigns for delivery across a variety of channels.

Prior to LoveLive, Richard was on the board and Entertainment Managing Director at Perform Group. Richard has also held senior positions at Framestore CFC and Image.Net (subsequently acquired by Getty Images).